Of all of the things that gurus say that you must do, these are the only two that work for everyone.
Warning: this post is a bit of a rant.
But it’s also a reminder.
A critically important one, I think, to myself and anyone else that’s working hard to grow a small business.
I’m really, really tired of seeing headlines like this, often from respected publishers (these are all real examples):
At best, these contain valuable advice wrapped in hyperbole. At worst, they’re lies that will actually hurt your business.
And it’s time we began ignoring them.
The Two Things That EVERY Business Needs to Be Doing
At the end of the day, there are two things that every business, if it wants to survive, needs to do:
- Deliver something that’s valuable to some people or organizations
- Make a profit from it
If somebody tells you that your business needs to be doing something, and it’s not one of those two things above, then chances are:
- They’re not considering what the word “need” really means (or deliberately ignoring it), or
- They have something to sell you that relies on you believing in that “need”, or
- They’re demonstrating a cognitive bias and think that the way that they did something is the only way to do it
In any of the three cases above, that’s not advice to take as gospel.
Everything Else Is Negotiable
There is truly nothing else that your business NEEDS to be doing.
I would love for other businesses to do content marketing successfully, and we try to help them accomplish that with our content. But so many businesses succeed without it.
I would love for other businesses to take customer support seriously, and to use Groove to help them do that. But so many businesses succeed without it.
For every single thing that some guru will tell you that you need, there are hundreds or thousands of counter-examples easily found with a Google search.
Here’s just a short–and far-from-comprehensive–list of things that your business, despite “best practices”, doesn’t need to be doing:
A Short And Incomplete List of Things That Your Business Doesn’t Need To Do
- Email Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Video Marketing
- PPC Advertising of any sort
- Business Cards
- Accepting Credit Cards
- Mobile Apps
- Great Customer Service
- Phone Support
- Email Support
- Chat Support
- Offer Discounts
- A/B Testing
- Track Everything
- Affiliate Programs
- Referral Programs
- Biz Dev Partnerships
Here’s Why This Is Important
This may seem like I’m splitting hairs over language, but this is actually really important, and here’s why.
Look: every single one of those tactics above can be valuable. They can help you achieve your goals of delivering value and profiting from it.
But you can construct your path to success in thousands of different ways.
And the minute that you begin to believe that you need one of these things–PR, for example–you lock yourself into a mindset that will hamper you until you break out of it.
What if PR doesn’t end up moving the needle for you?
What if it’s not actually the best approach?
If you believe that you need to be doing it, then you’ll hammer away, trying to do PR better and squeeze out whatever benefit you can from it.
But you’ll do that at the expense of something else.
If you look at PR as what it is–a strategy to achieve your goals–then you’ll approach it in a completely different way. You’ll test it thoroughly, try to succeed with it using the best knowledge and resources you can find, and assess whether it’s working or not.
And if it’s not working after a quarter or two? That’s fine, because you’re not wedded to it. You can cut your losses and move on to the next strategy that could bring you far closer to your ultimate goals.
The worst part of this is that for most people, it’s usually not one or two of these strategies that we believe we need to be using. It’s many. And that’s a massive amount of time, energy and focus devoted to things that might not be the best use of them.
If you spend all of your time chasing all of the things that people say that you need to do, you’ll fail.
The Importance of Focusing on the Right Things
This comes back to why we deleted our Facebook page in 2014, and haven’t regretted it for a moment since.
In that post, I wrote:
Doing things that don’t work isn’t a bad thing on it’s own. In fact, it’s the only way we grow and find what actually does work.
But doing things that don’t work over and over again, simply because you think you’re “supposed” to be doing them, is actively and aggressively damaging to your business.
Getting sucked into a mindset of believing that you need to be doing anything that isn’t delivering value or making a profit is dangerous.
Content marketing works for us. It works so well, in fact, that it’s the biggest driver of growth for our business.
But it might not be that way for you.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it. I absolutely recommend giving it a try to the best of your resources and ability. But you might find that it isn’t the best approach for you.
And you should be okay with that.
The mindset I’m advocating isn’t meant to paralyze you into doing nothing. On the contrary, my hope is that it liberates you to try many things–one or two at a time–and be guilt-free and unapologetic about cutting out anything that isn’t producing positive results for your business.
How to Apply This to Your Business
My hope is that this post serves as a reminder to stay focused on what truly matters.
And when you see or hear somebody tell you that there’s something that you’re not doing that you “need” to be doing, don’t feel guilty about, and don’t deviate from the strategies you’re testing until you know if they’re working or not.
Don’t fall into the trap of chasing every tactic out there just because others tell you that they’re “must-do’s”.
Take note of them. File them away (like we do on Trello). And revisit them when you’re ready to test something new.
But in the meantime, stay focused.